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‘I was forced into marrying my relative … and there was nowhere to go, no way out’

A Scots woman forced into marrying a relative in Pakistan against her will while still a teenager has spoken for the first time of the abuse she has suffered.

Sara, who still fears for her life if her true identity or whereabouts are revealed, was beaten, threatened and coerced until she agreed to leave university and travel to Pakistan with her parents. She made her decision to speak out as support agencies revealed a surge in the reported numbers of women fleeing forced marriage.

According to a new report, women’s support agencies in Scotland have seen a surge in the numbers of cases reported since new legislation to deal with forced marriage was introduced in 2011 by the Scottish Parliament. Since the new law was introduced some support agencies have seen their referrals double. Under the legislation courts in Scotland can issue protection orders specifically tailored to a victim’s needs, for example by ensuring they are taken to a place of safety or by helping those in danger of being taken abroad for marriage. Breaching such an order is a criminal offence, punishable by a fine, a two-year prison sentence or both. Mridul Wadhwa, information and education officer at Shakti Women’s Aid, said: “The numbers of reports of forced marriage in Scotland have gone up significantly.

“The referrals from people who suspect forced marriage has also increased, but we still need more agencies – particularly schools and universities – to pick up on the warning signs and notify the authorities earlier.” Despite the constant threat of violence hanging over her, Sara has taken the decision to speak out because she wants other young people to know it is possible to escape such situations.

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